The Southern Right Whales

Written by Grade 4

Photographs with kind permission of Dr Ken Findlay

Name and Status
Where found
Description
Food
Lifespan
Whaling
Laws to Protect Them
Stories about Whales
Interesting Information

Southern Right Whale

Name and Status

The whale's common name is the Southern Right whale because it lives in the southern hemisphere and at the time was the right whale to kill.
Why? It was the right whale because it was a slow swimmer and it had so much blubber it seldom sank.

Its scientific name is Eubaleana Australis because it is a baleen whale.

The Southern Right whale is vulnerable, but it was endangered. People have helped to keep them alive. If anymore are killed they will become endangered again.

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Where Found

They are found along South Africa's coastline. They travel 2000 km from the Southern Ocean to the Antarctic for the rest of the year. They come and have their babies in South African coastal waters in spring and in 3 months they go back to Antarctica. The length of pregnancy is 6 months to a year. The calf suckles from a pair of teats.
4500 Southern Right whales live in the southern hemisphere, 270 of these have been found between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. 1500 of these whales come to our coastline. There used to be 10 times more! But they have been killed.

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Description

The Southern Right whale is 11 - 18 metres long and its colour is grey. When it is an adult it can weigh between 25 and 66 tons. It has a big body and a large head. It can swim about 5km per hour.
The whales belong to the mammals because they are warm-blooded and have backbones. They give birth to live young and feed their babies with milk.

Food

Whales eat up to 400 kg of food a day. The Right whales eat krill and plankton. The reason why they eat such small food is because of their baleen plates and their throats are rather small, They can't even swallow an orange!

Instead of teeth they have baleen plates which hang like vertical Venetian blinds from the upper jaw. There are 160 to 360 on each side. The baleen plates are like finger nails.

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Lifespan

People don't know exactly the lifespan of the Southern Right whale but they think they live for 50 years. Some individuals can live much longer than 50 years.

Whaling

The Southern Right whales are vulnerable. They are being killed for their blubber.

Man has been killing whales from the beginning of history. The Eskimos were one of the first people to hunt whales. By 1788 the British, French and American ships were hunting the Southern Right whales off the South African coast. Between 1790 and 1825 12000 Southern Right whales were estimated to have been killed.

Whalers would row to the whales from the shore. Once they caught a whale they would bring it to shore and melt the blubber.

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Laws Protecting Whales

In South Africa whales are protected. These laws were made in 1980 and again in 1984. It is an offence to catch, kill, disturb or harass any whale at any time.
These are the offences:

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Two Stories about Whales

A Thousand Pails of Water
There was once a boy called Yukio, he was a very caring boy. He wanted to know why his father hunted whales.

"Why does father always kill whales?" He asked his grandfather.
His grandfather said, "He must do what he is supposed to do!"
One day Yukio went to the beach and saw a whale stuck between two hard rocks. The sun was burning the poor whale's back. He could see that the whale was dying. He ran and took a few pails of sea water. Just then his grandfather came and said, "You poor boy, I think you need help with that whale."
Afterwards his father and the whole village came to help put water on the whale. The tide came up and pushed the whale back into the sea. Everyone was happy after that.

The Whale Song
A girl named Lily lived with her grandmother. Her grandmother told her all about the whales in the sea. One night she decided that she wanted to see the whales. She climbed out of bed and went to the wharf hoping to hear the whales sing. She threw her special shell into the sea and half an hour later the whales started singing. After a while they stopped and that night she dreamt about the whales. The next day she went back but the whales had gone.

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Interesting Information

The Southern Right whales are identical to their cousins. They cannot breathe through their mouths. To breathe they go to the surface and breathe throught their blowhole which is found on the top of their head.
A person would think a whale can swallow a chair but it can't swallow an orange.
They have got wartlike things on their back. The warts never change. Whales have different patterns from each other which make them recognizable.
Southern Right Whale

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